reasoning


I know people who happily smoke pot, drink beer, and use other recreational drugs with no apparent concern, but who would not take an Ibuprofen because it’s bad for your liver. This confuses me. Yes, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are bad for your liver. So are many, many other mainstream drugs, like antidepressants and birth-control pills. (Here’s a list.)

But what is the reasoning that lets hippy-friendly drugs off the hepatotoxicity hook? It seems to be that these drugs are “natural” and so they are trustworthy, as if God wouldn’t make such righteous substances poisonous. This is not rational.

It’s true that there isn’t as much research on the hippy-friendly drugs as there is on medical drugs. The FDA makes pharmaceutical companies do a bunch of expensive research on the drugs trying to go the legitimate route, but they don’t get involved in the illegal stuff. There is some research, though, and we do know that even hippy drugs are made out of chemical compounds that the liver has to metabolize before we can pee them out. It is safe to assume that pot, acid, mushrooms, ecstasy, cocaine, and the rest of your recreational drug list are bad for your liver. (And alcohol, duh.)

I will happily support you in not taking over-the-counter pain meds, but if an Ibuprofin is a drop in the hepatotoxic-lifestyle bucket, your priorities confuse me. If you are willing to ingest any number of chemicals in order to feel good, why not ingest one or two more to feel a little less pain?

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I’m reading Froma Walsh’s Spiritual Resources in Family Therapy (1st edition) for my Wellness & Spirituality Throughout the Life Cycle class. Here’s a quote:

“Active congregational participation as well as prayer tend to become increasingly important over adulthood. Whereas only 35% of young adults aged 18-29 attend their place of worship weekly, 41% of persons aged 30-49, 46% of those  aged 50-64, and 56% of those over 65 attend weekly.”

That quote is from the 1999 edition of the book, and so those numbers are probably based on a survey conducted in the 1990s. The source is not cited, so I can’t be sure, so take this criticism with a grain of salt. I’m just using this example to point out something that happens a lot with the analysis of age-based research. That is, this presentation makes it sound as if humans attend church more and more as they get older, but these numbers say no such thing.

What these numbers say is that at the time of the survey, 35% of young adults say they are going to their place of worship weekly and that each age group above them at this time show more of that behavior. Each generation has its own characteristics. It may well be that this group of young adults is part of a less church-going generational cohort, which will stay more or less that way as they age. Imagine, for example, that such is the case and the next generation that comes along attends church more often. A survey at that time will show that place-of-worship attendance is relatively high in young adults, drops off in middle age, and then resurges in old age, and many will assume, based on that, that this is the “natural” progression of human church-going behavior.

As far as I know, Walsh is accurate in her analysis, based on information she is not giving. It’s a potential error to be aware of, though, and one often overlooked by researchers in psychology. I’ve noticed it often since reading Strauss & Howe’s Generations. They make the point really well, that we often think that increasing age causes people to become more or less something-or-other–more conservative, say–basing our reasoning on the generational cohorts that are currently alive, but it may just seem that way because of the quirks of our sample.

In order to know, we would need more information than this snapshot. We need multiple surveys conducted over quite a period of time, while different generational cohorts were alive, to get longitudinal information. Does each generation attend church more and more as it ages? Is the difference in church-going between a generation in its young years and that generation in old age greater or less than the difference between that generation and another generation entirely?